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Battle Rages For Taksim Square

By Countercurrents.org

12 June, 2013

Thousands of Turkish riot police again used tear gas, water cannon and volleys of rubber bullets against protesters in Istanbul 's Taksim Square in sporadic clashes. Bulldozers were sent in to clear barricades and shelters. Arcs of water cannon were spewed towards protesters. All through the day, the game of cat and mouse continued as police repeatedly cleared the square, only for thousands of demonstrators to return. Many protesters moved to nearby Gezi Park , where unrest continued into June 12, 2013-morning . It's been a long day of clashes. The clashes began on June 11, 2013 .

Early Wednesday, police surrounded Gezi Park , where protesters had set up a tent city, firing repeated rounds of tear gas into the area. Riot police also surrounded all the roads leading to the square.

In the country's most severe anti-government protests in decades the clash seemed battle for Taksim Square .

The crisis has left the Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan looking vulnerable for the first time in his decade in power. The unrest has spread to 78 cities across the country.

At Taksim, police fired tear gas rose in stinging plumes of acrid smoke from the in running battles with protesters, 30,000 an estimate said.

The area reverberated with the echoes of exploding tear gas canisters into the night while volunteers ferried dozens of injured people to waiting ambulances.

At least 15 people including one man with a brain injury were treated in hospital. Volunteers have set up makeshift clinics. Fearing injury, many protesters scrawled their blood type on their forearms with marker pens.

Earlier, a van parked to boost cell phone reception was burning in the square. Another two fires were also set in the square, one in front of the Atatürk Cultural Center and the other at the edge of the construction zone for the controversial project.

Tens of thousands of protesters from Gazi, a neighborhood in the European-side district of Sultangazi that is famous as one of the most left-wing urban areas in Turkey , briefly halted traffic by marching down the TEM Highway in support for the demonstrators in Taksim.

Erdogan praised the police operation.

As police marched on to the square and battled protesters for control of Taksim Square on Tuesday night the protesters raised slogans: "Every place is Taksim, every place resistance."

The protesters also thronged the steep narrow lanes that lead down to the Bosphorus waterway.

Tensions remained extremely high as thousands of demonstrators streamed toward the city centre and police reinforcements were sent in.

Police regained control of Taksim Square but were rebuffed by protesters when they tried to enter Gezi Park .

Simon Johns, who works for Istanbul 's Acik Radio, tweeted: Barrage of gas being fired. About one canister every three seconds at the moment.

Scott Peterson of the Christian Science Monitor described: Dusk falls on an urban battlefield.

Police firing continuous volleys of tear gas to keep protestors back from Taksim Square , sometimes into Gezi Park .

The major Turkish major news channels provided rolling live coverage of events in Taksim Square for the first time. The Guardian's ( UK ) Constanze Letsch said: "It's not the same media blackout as before."

Journalist Tim Pool described the clashes between police and protesters around Taksim Square as "like a tug of war".

People started to fill the square following a call from the Taksim Solidarity Platform for a rally that started at 7 p.m. following an all-day police intervention.

The platform called on everyone to support the ongoing protest at Gezi Park after the police entered the square at 7:30 a.m.

The platform voiced its concerns over the police intervention at Taksim and Gezi Park , saying that none of the protesters demands had been realized by now, in a statement posted on its Facebook page.

Police intervene again in Ankara

Riot police intervened against protesters in Ankara for a fourth consecutive day with tear gas and water cannon after thousands had gathered at Kizilay Square in the capital city's center.

After asking the protesters to disperse, police retreated from the square and let the demonstration continue. Thousands of people also gathered at Kugulu Park .

Although the night seemed set to end without any clashes, police used tear gas and water cannon at around 12:20 a.m. to attack protesters that were gathered at the intersection of

Agent provocateurs

After the clash the main issue of debate is whether the people who threw the molotov cocktails on June 11, 2013-morning were provocateurs or demonstrators.

There is a suspicion that those who threw petrol bombs could have been police provocateurs, according to Nick Hobbs a British concert promoter who lives close to Taksim Square .

Speaking to the Guardian after witnessing protesters being tear gassed, he said: My guess is they've used this excuse to clean the whole square. The park people completely disown that kind of violence. They don't want to anything to do with it and try to stop it. 

The social networking sites said they were police provocateurs.

Video footage on the website of the daily Hurriyet shows a small group of four of five "demonstrators" lobbing cocktails at police. But their attempts are suspiciously theatrical and inept – with the "demonstrators" at one point advancing in a hopeless Roman-style assault.

Turkish state media have broadcast footage of these encounters live, in stark contrast to the early days of the protests, marked by police brutality, which it failed entirely to report.

One of the activists in Taksim Square , Sevin Turan, has posted photos on her Twitter account showing one of the throwers visibly balding, wears military-style khaki clothing, and bears no resemblance to the demonstrators.

The Gezi Park protester Bilal Oguz, 31, an engineer, insists that those who threw petrol bombs were plain clothes policemen.

Speaking to the Guardian after witnessing the incident, he said: About 10 people threw firebombs at the police vehicles. But they were bearing police guns. They were not protesters, they were civilian police – just to provoke people to attack police – but people didn't do that. Actually they want to show protesters as violent people, but all the protesters left the square and went to Gezi Park .

Protesters' voice

"They're taking advantage of the situation," said Melda, 29, a cook who rushed to the park Tuesday morning when she heard of the police intervention. Fearful of losing her job for participating in the protests, she asked that her surname not be used. "And then the prime minister calls us all terrorists."

"All this government does is lie," said Adnan Oruç, 58, an electrician. "They speak live on television saying one thing, and I am here, witnessing the exact opposite of what they promised. That's why I am here. I cannot take their lies any more."

"We don't trust the police or the promises of the government," said student Aras Özmen, 24, organizing protesters through a walkie-talkie. "But we must remain calm. We don't want any fights with the police, that's not what we are here for."

Ahmet Aydin, 27, said: "They say that they want to clean up the square, but that's the job of the municipality, not of the police. The job of the police is to protect citizens, but instead, they attack us."

Hamdi, 29, an architect, said: "They try to split our group, they try to turn us against each other, but we will not let them. This has been a peaceful movement from the start, and it will remain so. We will deal with those who use violence to protest, we don't want them here. Gezi Park is no place to vent ideologies."

In the Capulcu Teahouse inside Gezi Park , four teachers sat at a small table. None wanted to give their name. "Isn't it terrible that we are afraid to speak to the press freely? This is what things have come to in Turkey ," said one.

"This is a movement of civil society's dissent, and there are many groups with many demands and political views here," said Hamit Menemencioglu, 21, manning a stand distributing food and water. "Things might be easier if we had a leader, but many people here do not want that."

In the makeshift teahouse, one teacher argued that Gezi Park was sufficiently organized: "We have everything – food, shelter, doctors, media. There is no crime here, we collect our own rubbish. We are the people, and we know what we want, we don't need anyone to lead us."

"For a long time, our government has put pressure on us and we were afraid of them," said Ahmet Metin. "But now the roles have been reversed."

Detained lawyers released

Riot police broke up a protest by lawyers at Istanbul 's main court Çaglayan Courthouse on June 11, 2013 for joining the Taksim Gezi protests and as they gathered to make a statement about police brutality. This was the third such protest held by the lawyers to support the Gezi protesters in Taksim.

More than 50 lawyers were detained. Video footage showed that many of them were beaten.

Police kicked lawyers' heads. The lawyers were dragged away by police. A number of lawyers fell to the ground.

The lawyers were detained for several hours.

All the lawyers were subsequently released. Around 100 lawyers went to the police station to demand the release of their colleagues.

The Ankara Bar Association said the lawyers had been detained by the police while issuing a press statement on the protests in Istanbul 's Çaglayan Courthouse.

“The detainment of the lawyers at the courthouse by force brings the question of what kind of a ‘democratic regime' we are living in,” said the bar in a statement.

The Ankara Bar asked who else could have safety and guarantees over property in a country where lawyers are taken from a courthouse by police.

The Turkish branch of Amnesty International condemned police violence via its Twitter account today. “We condemn shameful and brutal police violence. We repeated our justice demand in a meeting with [the] Istanbul governor,” it stated.

A statement expressing concern about the arrests of lawyers has been issued by the international human rights arm of the Bar of England and Wales .

It said in a statement that it deplores the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders which is currently taking place in the context of the violent repression of peaceful anti-government protests across Turkey .

PM ‘main provocateur'

Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu suggested that prime minister Erdogan was the “main provocateur” of the Gezi Park protests.

“What is your benefit from dividing this country. You provoke [people]. You are the number-one provocateur,” Kiliçdaroglu said yesterday, addressing his parliamentary group.

The main opposition party leader accused Erdogan of being a “liar,” referring to the prime minister's accusations that protestors had drunk alcohol in a mosque.

He read out a column of Süleyman Gündüz from daily Yeni Safak, in which Gündüz said he had witnessed the muezzin of the mosque informing EU Minister Egemen Bagis about the incident. The muezzin told Bagis that nobody was holding or drinking alcoholic beverages, Kiliçdaroglu read out.

“Saying that alcohol was brought into a mosque is irresponsibility, more than irresponsibility, it is immorality. Why did you remain silent when they harmed the Quran at Incirlik Air Base? Why did you remain silent when thousands of Muslim women were raped in Iraq ? What did you do? You congratulated those rapists,” said Kiliçdaroglu.

Kiliçdaroglu criticized Erdogan for harming the Turkish financial markets. He categorized the police into two groups: the government's police and the people's police.

Amnesty International said Turkey 's prime minister was now "personally responsible for the violence" following his inflammatory speech.

5,000 injured

A total of 4,947 people had sought treatment for injuries as late as June 10, 2013 evening, according to Turkey 's Medical Association.

Carroll Bogert, Human Rights Watch's Deputy Executive Director, found in just one hospital: Doctor at Sisli Hospital says 60 casualties admitted, most for gas inhalation and minor injuries, but 5 are in intensive care

Leadership issue

Some wondered if the Gezi Park movement was in need of leadership to organize continued resistance.

"There are many groups with many demands and political views here," said Hamit Menemencioglu, 21, manning a stand distributing food and water. "Things might be easier if we had a leader, but many people here do not want that."

Turkish Lira drops

The Turkish lira has dropped to an 18-month low since protests began, noted the Christian Science Monitor's Tom A. Peter.

Source: Hürriyet Daily News, Dogan news agency, CNNTürk, CBCnews, Reuters, BBC, The Guardian,







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